By Michael Cannon
The question, “what do we need to do to make Marketing more effective?” has been a topic of discussion in articles and books for decades. The most recent reincarnation of this topic resides under the banner of sales and marketing alignment. And, while there are many good ideas for “what to do”, true improvement remains minimal, according to over a decade of research.
The problem is that we are asking the wrong question. Instead, we need to focus on the systemic, root-cause issues: “Why is it so difficult to increase marketing effectiveness?” Understanding “why” yields a more useful answer to “what do we need to do?”
Before answering these questions, let’s clarify some terms. The word “customer” includes both Marketing’s internal customers, such as field sales, inside sales, sales operations, and field marketing,
and its external customers, such as the end users, channel partners, market and financial analysts, and investors. The word “marketing” includes the product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing teams.
The 4 Biggest Obstacles to Improving Marketing Effectiveness
When you peel the onion back on marketing effectiveness, what you find is that the obstacles are focused primarily on four categories of marketing content:
- Customer-facing collateral (company website, brochures, videos, etc.)
- Demand generation (advertising, events, etc.)
- Internal-facing sales tools (competitive analysis, sales opportunity overviews, etc.)
- Sales support training (product, competitive, sales enablement, etc.)
When you peel down to another layer, what you see is that it’s often not the content that’s the problem but rather the messaging in the content — or more specifically, the lack of effective messaging: the messaging is focused on what your product does and how it works instead of being focused on how the customer can more successfully achieve their business objectives using your product.
Proof that most customer communication (messaging, content, and sales conversations) is ineffective can be seen year after year in numerous research reports such as the one from which this excerpt was taken:
62% of buyers said that content is either not relevant or not useful. Buyers said they want shorter buying cycles, but the lack of relevant information to educate them, and all other influencers, is slowing things down.”
IDC, 2012 Sales Enablement Strategy: Content is King So Why Does Sales Feel Like a Jester?
Now let’s get back to the question of “why.” Below are the top nine root-cause issues that make it so difficult to improve marketing effectiveness and some practical ways to make meaningful improvements:
1) Poor visibility into the true cost of ineffective customer communication. SBG research indicates that the true cost of ineffective customer communication is between 10% and 20% of a company’s annual revenue. In the U.S. alone, B2B companies lose hundreds of billions of dollars annually to ineffective customer communication. There is no line item in the P&L for this cost. Ineffective customer communication cost is hidden in the company’s business model in the form of higher discounting, lower win rates, and slower revenue and market share growth. It’s hidden in Sales’ (field, inside, field marketing, sales operations) and the channel partners’ budgets as the 15-20% of their time spent trying to close the gap between what they need to effectively do their job, and what Marketing produces.
Solution: Gain visibility into the true cost of ineffective customer communication by conducting assessments such as a Sales/Channel Time Usage Study, a Collateral and Sales Tools Gap Analysis, and targeted customer surveys.
2) Lack of clear differentiation among messaging, content, and tactics. Messaging is a summary answer to the prospective customer’s primary and secondary buying questions – the key points that must be communicated to convince a person to engage and buy. Messaging is integrated into content via copywriting and the creative process and integrated into sales conversations by way of the communicator. The less effective the messaging, the less effective the content and conversations. It’s that simple.
Separating messaging from content enables you to make the content much more effective. For Marketing, content can be landing pages, collateral, whitepapers, websites, and presentations. For Sales, content also includes competitive briefings, ROI calculators, call guides, and sales support training such as product or sales opportunity training. These “content tools” are then presented to the customer via various tactics. For Marketing, the tactics can be campaigns, seminars, trade shows, etc. For Sales, the tactics can be sales conversations, emails, and voicemails.
Solution: Create a customer engagement model with a common vocabulary for the go-to-market components that Marketing creates and that Marketing’s customers need or use.
3) Inaccurate model of the categories, styles, and types of messaging required for market success. When you look at the types of conversations we need to have with prospective end-user customers, they quickly break down into five, as defined by the buyer’s primary buying questions:
- “Why should I consider your product?” for demand creation
- “Why should I meet with you?” for meeting creation
- “Why should I change from the status quo to a new solution?” for opportunity creation
- “Why should I buy this new solution from your company instead of your competitors?” for order creation
- “Why should I buy now?” for urgency creation
The problem is that most companies are using descriptive messaging to answer the prospective customer’s primary buying questions — and it’s not working. This style of messaging or communication is not effective, as the research referenced above indicates.
As you see in this customer communications model, the product messaging category describes what the product does, what’s included, how it works, and what some of its key benefits are. It’s all the typical “content” in a product brochure. What it does not provide is a persuasive answer to the prospective customer’s primary buying questions. What’s missing, as you can see from the map, is an entire style of messaging called “persuasive messaging”. This missing style is designed to provide highly persuasive, i.e., clear, relevant, differentiated, and provable, answers to the prospective customer’s “why” questions. Persuasive messaging enables the highly influential conversation that both Marketing and Sales need to have with customers.
Marketing needs to integrate both descriptive messaging
and persuasive messaging into its content in order to be more relevant to customers.
Solution: Use the sample customer messaging model as a reference, and create a company customer messaging model that’s aligned with Marketing and Marketing’s customers, too. Then create the required messaging and integrate it into your content. The result is a framework that gets all stakeholders on the same page, prior to the development of your messaging and go-to-market content.
In Part Two, we will explore how to overcome 5 more root-cause issues that decrease Marketing effectiveness, including:
- Misguided priority setting
- Erroneous business model for allocating sales and marketing resources
- Ineffective new product development process or commercialization process
- Lack of method and skills to create the most persuasive messaging
- Poor alignment around the definition, rating, hand-off, follow-up, and reporting of leads
- Limited sales experience
Resources to Implement the Most Influential Customer Communications
Check in at the SVPMA website next week for the Part 2 of this Featured Article!
Michael Cannon is an internationally renowned marketing and sales effectiveness expert, best-selling author, speaker and an authority on enabling B2B companies to engage customers with the most influential communications. For more information visit www.silverbulletgroup.com.